Friday, February 21, 2020

letterboxd backup (16)

Anna, Luc Besson, 2019

Rather tired. Luss is good. Second unit director: Olivier Megaton.

The Lost People, Muriel Box, Bernard Knowles, 1949

From the theater of war to the theater of peace. The setting in an old, baroque theater isn't a mere gimmick, because the film constantly works with oppositions like stage - audience, character - role etc, and also makes good use of the wardrobe room, of props, the costume repository and so on. In a way, this really is a backstage drama, negotiating by the means and rules of the stage a new beginning for Europe.

There's a sense of insecurity and fragileness running through both the more openly political discussions and the melodrama that slowly takes over. The marriage scene especially makes this clear: none of the involved, least of all the priest, seem to be certain if something like a marriage is still a possibility after the war (and, a fact the film acknowledges much more clearly than most others of the era: after the camps).

Both Zetterling and McKenna are amazing - two modes of feminine renitency, differening in their political implications, but united in their reluctance to allow even for the possibility of entering again into a conversation with the male world of respectability.

Afsporet, Bodil Ipsen, Lau Lauritzen Jr., 1942

An uneven script and a not all that convincing central performance - Wieselmann is good only in the beginning, as a blasé bourgeoise, her proletarian turn is heavy-handed and harks back to silent movie melodrama. But the film has a lot of energy and, aside from Wieselmann, its at the same time relaxed and hysterical demimonde fantasy has quite a bit of charme.

Death Is a Caress, Edith Carlmar, 1949

Or: what happens with the Postman-always-rings-twice template when the husband just agrees to a divorce. (Spoiler: turns out that this means that not he, but the woman has to die.)

A stylish norwegian noir thriller (lots of low angles; well-done montage sequences) turned meandering character drama. The influence of Hollywood films of the time - not only noir, but also women's pictures - is obvious, but Carlmar injects both more sex and a (luckily not too heavy) dose of scandinavian torturedness.

Both leads are great. Riiser-Larsen is extremely versatile, her character seems to change not only in mood, but also in shape almost on a scene by scene basis. Best moment: Sonja's almost childlike thrill of anticipation when she is about to have sex with Erik for the first time. Wiese himself is more of a cypher, and he is sexualised to an unusual degree.

Also makes good use of the erotic implications of cars.

The Piper´s Tune, Muriel Box, 1961

Routine adventure story executed with diligence, eye to eye with the material.

Lend Me Your Wife, Edith Carlmar, 1958

Could've been a bit faster at times, but still an extremely pleasant sex comedy, mostly built around conflicting sexual and economic interests rather than around issues of respectability. Meaning that everyone expresses his or her desires rather openly, and although things never get all that risque, there's a clear focus on the body, including some nicely done slapstick moments and yoga as a running gag. Once again, the hollywood influence is obvious (they even recreate IT HAPPEN ONE NIGHT's Wall of Jericho at one point), but the film has enough idiosyncrasies to stand on its own.

Murder Melody, Bodil Ipsen, 1944

There are a lot of different characters in MURDER MELODY and I don't believe the film depicts a sane, healthy relationship between any two of them (ok, maybe being drinking buddies counts). Everything is fucked up from the start, but as it turns out, the standard business of exploitation and violence is just a cover for deeper, stranger dependencies. A film about the experience of heteronomy. Not even my voice belongs to me.

Given all of this, MURDER MELODY doesn't feel particularly dark, because Ipsen obviously has a lot of fun with all of it. The crazier things get, the more she seems to feel at home.

Outrage, Ida Lupino, 1950

Gets more fascinating with each viewing, especially in the second half: the first, tentative steps into a new world.

A Gentleman in Top Hat and Tails, Bodil Ipsen, 1942

Extremely nice romantic comedy with an original plotline that teases with psychoanalysis, but turns out to be, in the end, more about giving the pygmalion template a rather ingenious twist: a woman modelling not only her lover, but also her lover's true love after herself. The cast is generally excellent, but nevertheless Ib Schönberg, in a supporting role, routinely steals every scene he's in. Great staircases, a lot of piano scenes, and even more eroticizing of classical composers - really, a film made especially for me.

Ung frue forsvunnet, Edith Carlmar, 1953

A bit like a Lupino production: A "shocking" social theme stripped of all sensationalism (note the difference between the poster and the somber tone of the film...) and dealt with care for psychological detail. Unfortunately the main actress is completely miscast, her downfall into the gutters of Oslo never rings true, and even besides that the film displays almost none of the style and verve Carlmar's more commercial films exhibit. Still, some scenes do pull a punch and the unagitated depiction of female professionalism (the cop, especially) is nice, too.

Les Bicots-nègres, vos voisins, Med Hondo, 1974

Not a revelation like SOLEIL O, mostly because it isn't interested in being one. Instead, Hondo creates a modular, layered, dialogical and principally open-ended examination of the (im)possibilities of cross-ethnic solidarity - and at the same time a (much more direct and aggressive) indictment of dominant cinema as just another state apparatus. The framework is strictly marxist, but despite the presence of quite a few geo-economical flip charts, Hondo's argument always starts with the constellation of specific sounds and images. My favorite parts are built around music: the antiphony about the ethics of sex work (like a series of desperate love letters) and the montage sequence set to an anti-racist chanson.

The Man Who Cheated Himself, Felix E. Feist, 1950

Nice b-movie mechanics, based on clever spatio-temporal distribution of information and the willingness of all involved to reduce the world to information... but the film only really comes alive because of Lee J. Cobb's resigned, pragmatic, detached attitude towards absolute everything: love, crime, his own downfall.

Napoli millionaria, Eduardo de Filippo, 1950

Pleasant, loose comedy about a busy, narrow, overcrowded side street in Naples and the folksy, chaotic resistance it puts up against authorities of every ideological persuasion. Every regime placards its demands on the rough walls of its houses, but in the end, the spirit of Naples shall always prevail. Even as disruptive an event as World War 2 impairs this equilibrium of tricksterism, gossip and business-mindedness only temporarily - two days after your return from German imprisonment, no one wants to listen to your tales of misery any longer.

The film starts out episodic and not all that interesting, but over time, through repetition and variation, it grew on me. Toto shows up once in a while.

Screened from one of those battered 35mm prints that tell you more about film history than all those slick DCP's.

The Winning of Barbara Worth, Henry King, 1926

Among many beautiful scenes one of my favorites: the rather long and meticulous efforts to clean, then to dirty up again, then to clean up once again Charles Lane's face after the magnificent flood scene. Conflicting instincts seem to be in play here: on the one hand the desire for harmony of capital, love, nature and national destiny, on the other an insistence on punishment, an unwillingness to let this specific face shine brightly again.

Under Capricorn, Alfred Hitchcock, 1949

When Ingrid Bergman apears for the first time, the camera scans her vertically, naked feat first. She is in pieces, in need of reassemblage, and this first scan is just the beginning of a process that will make her whole again. After this encounter, she is the pivotal point of a number of autonomous camera movements; especially she is, again and again, the (sometimes invisible) end point of those creeping shots alongside up the front of the magnificently designed country home she lives in with Joseph Cotton. Those shots usually start with, or at least are triggered by Michael Wilding, who seems to be the master of the gaze. In one crucial scene, he becomes one with the camera and also climbs up the wall of the country home towards her sleeping chamber. The synthesis seems to be complete, the gaze has been reconnected with action, but in the end it turns out that Wilding is just a catalyst for a completely different kind of transformation, that takes the form of a series of openly theatrical self-revelations.

Also, the more Bergman wins control over her life, the crazier her wardrobe gets.

The Threat, Felix E. Feist, 1949

Another no nonsense thriller powered by a well-oiled pulp clockwork. Pretty similar not only to THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, but also to many other open-road-claustrophobia crime films of the late 40s and early 50s. This hasn't all that many impressive performances, but it seems to be ahead of its time in its matter of fact approach to violence. No dark, brooding, romantic atmosphere any more, just a bunch of sweaty guys fucking each other up.

Twin Kiddies, Henry King, 1916

The child meets her double, and because of the sameness of the two, everything turns out to be even more perfect than before. Also: a dog, a kitten, some dead fish (!) and two swans.

A touching film. The plot points are few and far between, and they leave ample room for harmless and surprisingly cheerful cuteness.

Ragazza da marito, Eduardo de Filippo, 1952

Tighter, but also better than NAPOLI MILIONARIA, a comedy making fun of, among other things, corrupted self-images and lives lived by proxy. The center of the film is a family saga, though, and one of the nice things about this is the way its focus switches from the father to the mother, and then back to the father over the course of the film; while the three daughters form more of a constant background presence that only comes into clear view when they are about to move out of the house.

Film ohne Titel, Rodulf Jugert, 1948

Is it even possible to make a comedy in Germany anymore, asks one of the members of the fictional film crew in the beginning. In the end, the question isn't really answered, because while some of the films comical diversions work really well (especially an interlude of Willly Fritsch reimagining the plotline with himself in the main role), at heart this isn't a comedy, but a love story with melodramatic groundings and a particular antisocial, almost anti-historical twist: the affection between the bourgeoise Söhnker and the farmer's daughter Knef is a direct correlation / transferrence to both nazi germany's defeat and the breakdown of social barriers. Not necessarily the best, but the most interesting film of the festival so far.

Gigi, Vincente Minnelli, 1958

Seen today, the "thank heaven for little girls" number is like a curse haunting the film. When you get over this, the film turns out to be nuanced, highly ironical and often very beautiful, especially the scenes centered around Caron and / or the cat. Still, the satirical tone doesn't really fit Minnelli, on the one hand it lacks the historical specifity that would put especially the gender aspects into context and give them real edge, on the other hand there's no room for the flights of fancy that make most other Minnelli musicals into the delights they are.

La mura di Malapaga, Rene Clement, 1948

A bit to Gabiny for my taste, but a lot of nice touches. The scene with the chicken and the cat is an instant favorite.

She Goes to War, Henry King, 1929

Impossible to truly dissect this, but the closeness of musical-erotic sensuality and terrifying battlefield mayhem in the existing recut makes for an intense viewing.

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, Henry King, 1952

Manifest destiny and its discontent.

Filumena marturano, Eduardo de Filippo, 1962

Some nice twists, but I was thrown off early by the staginess.

In Old Chicago, Henry King, 1938

The emergence of the big cities is seldom covered in Hollywood cinema. It is clear that they must (have) come into existence, but there seems to be no natural way imaginable for them to evolve. Urban America is always born in flames; or rather, in the desire for the flames. Still, it takes a cow to light the fuse.

Once Upon a Time the Nile, Youssef Chahine, 1968

The overcrowded plot (that includes some half-baked progpaganda efforts here and there) makes this a bit frustrating at times, but the scope of Chahine's sensuous political dialectics is once again impressive; here, it reaches far beyond his homeland. Even in Stalingrad, the gruesome real of history is inseparable from desire.

Journey Into Light, Stuart Heisler, 1951

"Sterling Hayden on skid row" seems to have been a succesfull pitch in Hollywood, even back in 1951, before his journey into the unknown; probably because it feels completely unlikely on first site, but connects to a self-destructive streak in his presence that is on display here at least part of the time. Still, the film doesn't really commit to its own pitch. Hayden is on skid row, and he insists several times that he indeed is a bum, but he doesn't quite live up to this insistence, neither in his rather clea-cut apprearance nor in his perfectly upright demeanor. Anyway, a fascinating companion piece to LEUCHTTURM DES CHAOS.

Lang ist der Weg, Herbert B. Fredersdorf, Marek Goldstein, 1949

At first, the segments with actors embedded in the montage scenes, which in turn combine various documentary sources in a swift, concise manner, seem to be mostly about telling the experience of an exemplary jewish family during the holocaust years. However, the fictional aspects of the film soon emancipate themselves. The stylized, idyllic lighting in many of the newly enacted scenes is a necessary opposition against the ugliness of history, Israel Beker has a strong presence and while Bettina Moisi isn't a very good actress, at least in this role, what does this even mean in a film like LANG IST DER WEG?

For the people in the film zionism, too, is still a fiction; but a necessary one.

The Gunfighter, Henry King, 1950

Perfectly calibrated. Everyone including the camera is closing in on Peck who spends almost the whole film in a single room, but still manages, at one time, to sneak out, disarm and jail an enemy without anyone noticing.

Indiscreet, Stanley Donen, 1958

A wonderful, almost abstract reconsideration of the 30s screwball comedies. By now, everybody knows all the moves, everyone feels seen all the time, and even if you declare that you don't care about the public: there's no privacy anyway, except, maybe, during a silent elevator ride. Still, embarassment is eternal, so the moment he is exposed as a phony, Cary Grant reverts back to his old, silly self, in the magnificent dancing scene.

The Bravados, Henry King, 1958

Pretty clearly my film of the festival. Why does the ending hit as hard as it does? I think the reason is that, while the film on first sight pretty closely resembles the dark, psychological westerns of its time, Jim Douglas, for most of the running time, is a consciously flat presence, a hero from another age, an icon rather than a character. His thirst for revenge isn't placed in his psyche, but in an object, in the watch he carries with him wherever he goes. So when he realizes his fault in the end, he doesn't just have to deal with a new fact about the past, but with a new regime of knowledge. It's a complete breakdown of self, and he doesn't have the means for rebuilding. He has encountered something he can't exteriolize any more - see also the helpless glance towards the madonna in the church at the end, echoing an visually identical, but completely differently charged shot earlier in the film.

Der große Mandarin, Karl-Heinz Stroux, 1949
An interesting, mostly well-meaning film that suggests, on many levels, that the most pressing problem of the post-war era in Germany was form rather than content. On the other hand, the real problem with a film like this is that in the end you really have to watch it. Every single fucking minute of it.

Dr. No, Terence Young, 1962

Not really a surprising rewatch: So these films indeed have always been worse than most, or at least very, very many other action films from their respective time periods. And they also always have been way too long. DR. NO is at times a bit more stylish than the later Bonds (Terence Young might not be a particularly good director, but he at least is a director), but it's also cynical in an ugly way, and it even manages to spoil the one nice fetish moment shining through a sea of sexism: when Honey Ryder emerges from the sea like a sexy, wet apparition, holding one giant, vaginal shell in each of her hands, she just has to sing one of the stupidest songs in the history of popular music.

Twelve O´Clock High, Henry King, 1949

Good, methodical war film: not only the daily routines of fighter pilots, but also the different kinds of breakdowns of these routines are explored in a systematic, patient way. Gregory Peck's breakdown in the end recalls the ending of THE BRAVADOS, but here he is, thanks to the war, provided the thing missing from the later film: an external reason to go on with his life. (Would make an interesting, if rather exhausting double bill with LeRoy's TOWARD THE UNKNOWN.)

Der Ruf, Josef von Baky, 1949

The good old german tradition of having a beer with the professor after the lecture.

Heartbreaking... and a film that renewed my believe that Germany is, in the end, just not a very good idea.

No comments: